Has a friend passed out in your kitchen? Ask yourself ‘What would Braverman do?’ | Adrian Chiles

No amount of nagging will persuade a seal to balance a ball on its nose. This was an indisputable point made in an article I read some time ago about how techniques used by animal trainers could be applied in human relationships. Fascinating stuff. In other words, working someone’s nerves for days on end isn’t going to persuade them to get the job done. But if they do somehow get it done, be sure to throw them a fish. Or something. It’s all about reward: less stick, more carrot. I get that. But the bit I can’t remember is how to get the seal to balance the ball on its nose in the first place. And now I can’t find the article, so I may never know.

The skills deployed by people in specialist fields are rich in untapped potential for use in domestic situations. The rhetorical devices practised by politicians are a case in point. Chris Mason, long before he became the BBC’s political editor, told me how his immersion in the language of politics was so complete that it had started to creep into his home life. Only that week he had found himself “pledging” to do more washing-up. And although we rail against politicians’ unapologetic non-apologies, how many of us have not at some stage been guilty of using a version of: “I’m sorry you are offended by what I have said and done”?

On Monday, in the Commons, our home secretary was questioned over allegations that, having been nicked for speeding and offered a place on a speed-awareness course in lieu of penalty points, she asked civil servants if she could get her own personal course organised. In the end, she took the points rather than the course. She must have missed my piece in praise of the speed-awareness course I recently took. Perhaps she’s not a Guardian reader.

I make no judgment as to the impropriety of anything she might have requested from a civil servant. But I must award her several points for her performance in the house, using a technique I am now working on replicating in my personal life. She is hardly the first politician not to answer a question directly by, instead, answering a slightly different question. But, my, how she went about it.

“Last summer, I was speeding,” she intoned. “I regret that. I paid the fine. And I took the penalty. And at no point did I attempt to avoid sanction.” Five clear points there, perhaps using the fingers of one hand as an aide memoire. “What I am focused on …” she continued. And so on.

Someone had another go at asking her the same question, and she repeated her five points, essentially verbatim and identical in rhythm and tone. And again. And again. And again. At least five times in all. It went from being exasperating to farcical to, in the end, kind of triumphant. Her interlocutors had nowhere to go.

So, one morning, should your significant other enquire why your friend is asleep in their underpants on the kitchen floor, how are you going to respond? Go on, try it. Be brave, be Braverman. Here are your five key points: 1. Last night, I made a mess in the kitchen; 2. I regret that; 3. I failed to clean up; 4. I regret that too; 5. I do not shy away from taking the blame for that. What I am focused on is the deliciousness of the meal I cooked, the fact that I do all the washing and ironing, and that I will now be taking the dog out for a walk.

Then be ready for the follow-up question: “But what about him on the floor, lying there in his pants?” Clear your throat and go again: “Last night I made a mess in the kitchen. I regret that etc, etc.” Repeat your five-point answer verbatim as many times as necessary. I feel sure this approach will do the trick. Throw yourself a fish.



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